Should I Stay or Should I Go?

After an unparalleled junior season where he ransacked opposing offenses and was named the Lott IMPACT player of the year, defensive end J.J. Watt prepares for No.3 TCU in the Rose Bowl, and contemplated where he will be playing next season.

MADISON - As the days count down, junior defensive end J.J. Watt insists that there's no day more important to him than Jan. 1, a date that will allow the Pewaukee, Wis., native to suit up for No.4 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl against TCU.

A close second on his list would be Jan.3, a date in which he should receive paperwork from the NFL draft advisory council that will either confirm or deny his decision on whether or not to enter the 2011 NFL draft or return for his senior season.

"I have kind of made all my choices, except for that piece of paper," Watt said. "That piece of paper is going either be confirming or denying my decision. When that comes back, that will be the final point that I need to stick into my decision. It's nice that it's coming after the game so I don't have to worry."

Hovering over Watt's decision is the ongoing labor disputes between the NFL owners and the players association on a collective bargaining agreement set to expire in March. Some of those same organizations that project Watt as a first-round pick are predicting at least some kind of work stoppage.

"It's an extremely tough decision because you don't know what the situation is," Watt said. "It sounds like there is going to be a lockout regardless, you just don't know how long it's going to last. So you kind have to go in with the mind-set that we have to attack it just like there is no lockout because we can't control it.

"If you feel like you're strong enough, either way you're going to have to go out. So we'll see."

Projected by some draft organizations as a first-round pick in April's draft, Watt's performance in the Rose Bowl will at least be the end to an amazing season. One year after finishing second on team in TFLs (15.5-53), pass breakups (5) and fumble recoveries (2) and third in sacks (4.5-19) opposite O'Brien Schofield, Watt elevated himself without a significant threat opposite him.

Through 12 games, Watt is tied for second on the team with 59 tackles, leads the team in sacks (7) and tackles for loss (21) and has helped UW's defense give up an average of only 20.5 points per game and force 16 turnovers the last four games.

"The guy is the best player on the field every single week," Defensive Coordinator Dave Doeren said. "He's a force. You've got to account for him, which means (the rest of the) guys are flying by him. Whenever you have a guy that one person can't block, it changes everything for the offense. Every play they run, they have to think about how they are going to take care of No.99. That's a big deal."

Defensive Line Coach Charlie Partridge, who Watt has great admiration for, has tried his best to remain a neutral observer, having laid out the pros and cons of the process and give as much information about the process and the decision as he can.

"I think the jump you saw J.J. make was a similar leap that people saw OB make from his junior to senior year," Partridge said. "As much as I want to coach him next year and us wanting him back, we want what's best for J.J. and we're going to help him the best we can."

Watt acknowledged the worst-case scenario would be to leave early, have to sit out the entire season because of a lockout and then watch Wisconsin flourish in 2011.

"If that all happens, you're sitting there and you're kind of kicking yourself a little bit," Watt said. "But the biggest thing I know about my decision is that once I make my decision, I need to not look back, have no regrets, no excuses and say I did the best thing for me at that time."

Watt discussed his options with his parents again last week, but the talks has been put on hold until after the bowl game. Watt plans to announce his decision a day or two after receiving the NFL paperwork and before Jan. 14, which is the deadline for underclassmen to declare to enter the draft.

Of course, he plans to announce his decision via Twitter.

"I've thought about the decision a lot since the Northwestern game but it's time to put that on hold," Watt said. "Right now, me and my teammates are focused on winning the Rose Bowl because that's the most important thing right now."

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